It is 7am at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and Dick Page is in gastronomic heaven. Squeezed into a tiny sushi bar, the strapping 1.8m-tall man is wolfing down an assortment of sashimi.
Suddenly, the newly appointed artistic director for Shiseido The Makeup - the Japanese cosmetics company's global colour collection - calls for a beer.
Asked if it's too early in the day for one, the New York-based Briton quips: "But it's 7pm in New York."
The bear-like, bearded man then chugs the beverage down at a speed that would make a trucker proud.
More Road House than Project Runway, the 43-year-old who has worked with the likes of designers Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors doesn't quite fit the stereotype of a celebrated make-up artist.
Clad in a white long-sleeved shirt and dark blue pants topped with a vest, the man renowned for his artistry with faces is utterly non-flamboyant.
He doesn't air-kiss or coo meaningless niceties. Ask him to dish the dirt on the presumed backstage clawing and backstabbing in the fashion world, and he says evenly: "Tempers do get frayed but not very often."
The only designer he has an unkind word for is Ralph Lauren. Even so, he will only say that the man is "just not nice and working with him is a physical impossibility".
Despite being a regular at fashion shows, he eschews the glitz of after-parties. "When the schedule is that crazy, I'd mostly rather go home."
But taking it slow hasn't been much of an option since he assumed his new role heading Shiseido The Makeup in March. He joined Shiseido in 1997 but spent the past years working on another line, INOUI ID.
The 135-year-old company now wants Page, who has been in the business since the 1980s, to "heighten the global visibility and strength of the colour collection to equal that of Shiseido's skin-care brand", says a spokesman.
In the last fiscal year, which ended in March, the Japanese beauty brand reported net sales of 694.6 billion yen (S$9.1 billion), up 3.5 per cent from the year before.
Page joined the company 10 years ago because he was drawn to its "storied history". He says of his plans: "Sometimes people do think of Shiseido colours as being old fashioned. The answer to this is not to make it more fashionable, but more surprising."
For fall/winter 2008, he lets on that he is working on a collection inspired by chiaroscuro - the art of using light and dark made popular by Italian painters like Caravaggio.
He says: "Light advances, illuminates and enlarges. Dark recedes, defines and adds detail. Those are the beginning principles I'm working with."
Slaughterhouse to fashion house
Growing up in a small town near Bristol in England, Page first discovered his knack for colours as an artist.
The only son of a housewife and navy man studied art in school till he was 18. Strangely enough, he spent his teenage years working part-time at a slaughterhouse because "it paid more than delivering newspapers".
But he also found time off to dabble in fashion and beauty. "I had every hair colour under the sun," he says of the "crazy" mid-1980s. "Before long, I was experimenting with my friends' faces."
In May 1987, he moved to London and spent the next few years doing make-up for editorials in publications like The Face and I-d Magazine, at times for a pittance.
"The early years were lean," he says. "I just took everything that came along."
Slowly but surely, he got his name out in the scene, meeting fashion stylists Melanie Ward and photographers David Sims, Corinne Day and Juergen Teller along the way.
His big break came about three years later when he began doing make-up for a 15-year-old reed-thin, fresh-faced model. Her name: Kate Moss.
As part of her crew, he did his first fashion show. It was for Calvin Klein in New York, and he sent models out onto the catwalk with surprisingly clean faces.
"My style at the time was very minimal. A bit of lipstick on the cheeks, no mascara, no powder."
Beauty critics, then used to heavily made-up faces, were aghast. But the barely-there look soon caught on.
Today, Page says his style has evolved to encompass anything and everything that may be required for a shoot or show.
"But you can sort of get that it's my hand," he adds. "The make-up rarely looks like it's overdone and you can tell the nature of the person wearing it."
Inspired by fish market
Inspiration strikes him in the least likely places. In fact, the Tsukiji Fish Market, where we are, provided the creative spark for Shiseido's INOUI ID line in the late 1990s.
He says: "Anything with colour, texture, life and energy is where I can lift from."
He designed eyeshadow palettes with "oyster" (pearly beige) and "shrimp" (pinkish) hues, calling it a "visceral way of looking at colour".
But most of the time, ideas come to him while he sits and paints in his Long Island home which he shares with his partner.
"If I have a project, I'll start by painting acrylic panels of colour and soon I'll have a lot of versions of the same type of colour.
"They look like 10 pieces of beige paint but all have different meanings," he adds.
Once he's happy with his work, he sends the colours to the Shiseido labs, which, in turn, churn them out as shades of face paint.
Time off is spent pottering around his herb garden or taking his bicycle out for a ride. The avid cook also grinds his own meat for sausages and cures pork belly for bacon.
Again, it's not quite the picture you'd expect from Dick Page, make-up maestro.
But he philosophises: "Food and drink is related to the creative field as well. You can't cook unless you're really interested. Neither can you work with colour unless you are really committed to the idea."
DICK PAGE'S MAKE-UP TIPS
Ask Dick Page what his biggest gripe about Asian women is and he says: "The disappearing act is a main event to me. They just beige out of existence by being as inoffensive as possible."
Sticking to a tried-and-tested make-up routine - say, a rosy lip liner, sparkle around the eye and a bit of blush - is boring, he explains.
Here, he offers a few tips on how to do things differently:
» Steal looks from the runway but don't copy them whole.
If you saw models wearing violet eyeliner paired with gold eye colour at a Michael Kors show, cop what's wearable, like the violet eyeliner. Similarly, a plum-coloured lip seen on the Narcisco Rodriguez runway will work by reducing it to a stain. "Apply it, then blot it off. You still give the impression of richness and depth."
» Swop products around. Almost every woman looks great with blush, says Page. But for added zest, put some lip colour high on the cheekbones for a vibrant quality.
Hydropowder (little tubs of eye colour) may be conventionally used on the eyelids but you can also dab them on your lips and cheekbones for different textures.
And instead of using concealer, why not try a multi-shade enhancer, which comes in different gradations of bronze, to hide spots?
» Highlight creatively.
For a quick pick-me-up, dab concealer under the nose, in the corner of the eyes, on the bow of lip and on the chin. "The effect is like shining a flashlight on your face," says Page.
The same goes for powder where you can play with texture and contrast. Dab powder on just the forehead, jawline and nose, leaving the areas of the eyes shiny. Your eyes will immediately seem brighter.